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Restoring Nalanda challenging task: Sen

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said on Tuesday that restoring Bihar's Nalanda University - the world's oldest university - was one of his most challenging assignments.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2011 00:00 IST
HT Correspondent

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said on Tuesday that restoring Bihar's Nalanda University - the world's oldest university - was one of his most challenging assignments.

"I am finding out how hard it is to re-establish a university after a 800-year hiatus," Sen said at the five-day Indian Science Congress that was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here on Monday.

"But we are getting there."

Established in the fifth century, Nalanda University remained the touchstone for educational excellence for more than 700 years - when acclaimed universities such as the UK's Oxford and Cambridge were still being founded. It is more than 600 years older than the University of Bologna, the oldest continually operating university in the world.

The Nalanda University was destroyed in an Afghan attack led by Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1193. Books and documents were burnt down indiscriminately, robbing the academic world of its educational standards and scholastic achievements in various disciplines, Sen said.

"Had it not been destroyed and had it managed to survive our time, Nalanda would be, by a long margin, the oldest university in the world," Sen added.

Sen is the chairman of the interim governing body of the Asian initiative to rebuild Nalanda. Japan, China, Singapore, Thailand and India are jointly undertaking this venture.

Taking the delegates on a historical tour of the ancient Indian centre of learning, Sen admitted that turning Nalanda into an institute of excellence for higher studies, with focus on science, would cost a lot of money and take a lot of time.

"Mainly for cost reasons, indeed entirely for cost reasons, we cannot start the science faculties immediately," the Nobel laureate said.

Teaching physical and biological sciences costs a lot more than teaching humanities and social sciences.